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Blood Bye Week Thoughts

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Pre-Georgia musings, if you will.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

It’s really, really ingratiating when you can enjoy a weekend away from the usual heart-pounding action that is Auburn football. Watching everyone else put it on the line is a rare joy that needs to be appreciated every single time it’s experienced. When that kind of an open date coincides with what happened yesterday across the country, it’s extra nice. Let’s recap, with thoughts.

Big news out of Tuscaloosa — through a quality loss, Alabama has improved their standing for the College Football Playoff. You’ve got to have that close loss to a top team on your resume to show how battle-tested you are, and now the Tide have it. They’re in prime position to skate right on through, no need to see them test themselves against Georgia in Atlanta, and no need to penalize them for beating, you know, nobody.

It really is astonishing how quickly after the loss the rationalization began.

CBS had this graphic ready made. DId they have one for LSU too? If you told me no, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I’m a little mad at LSU, since they allowed Bama to come back and make it a close game. Hopefully everyone was actually watching and saw that Bama isn’t the team that they used to be and that they allowed 40+ points to the last two highly-ranked teams that they’ve played. In the end, Tua’s hurt ankle, the close nature of the game, and the eye test will be enough to get Bama into the Playoff, unless...

Here’s the situation: Gus Malzahn is once again at the ire of a large portion of the Auburn fanbase. This isn’t a black and white issue, it’s a freaking kaleidoscope.

  • On one hand, Auburn is absolutely undefeated with, like, 10% better offensive play this year. That’s Gus’ job. He bet on himself and made himself the play-caller, so all offensive miscues now fall directly on him. There’s no scapegoat.
  • On the other hand, we’ve got a true freshman quarterback that already got us one win over a now-sixth-ranked Oregon team away from home, and the two losses are on the road to the #1 and #11 teams.
  • On the third hand, we’re wasting the best defense in college football by not being better on offense. We lose the meat of that group for next year, and even if the offense is better, the defense will regress a bit. It has to without Derrick Brown, Marlon Davidson, and company.
  • On another hand, are some Auburn fans looking to get rid of Gus for stagnation reasons? Or are they looking because they think that Auburn can do better? Gus has never failed to make a bowl game, unlike every previous Auburn coach since WWII. Who’s out there that we could get to replace him? First of all, Auburn isn’t getting rid of him unless he leaves. There’s a $25 million price tag on a move like that.
  • HOWEVER, the one job that he’s always been linked to is now open.

If you tuned in for Arkansas football yesterday, you got there just in time for the death rattle. The Pigs lost to their former quarterback Ty Storey and the WKU Hilltoppers, and it’s surprising that they didn’t pull the plug on Chad Morris on the field a la Bret Bielema. Every time the Arkansas job comes open, the rumor mill begins. Gus to Fayetteville.

Why would that happen? Let’s pretend that Gus hasn’t already pledged millions of dollars of his own money to making Auburn athletics better and more competitive, and put on our conspiracy caps. Mama’s calling, all that jazz, god to high school coaches far and wide across the Ozarks — that’s Gus Malzahn to Arkansas fans. To the rest of the country it’s the roster that Bielema couldn’t mold to his liking, and he didn’t close the lid on the Play-doh, leaving the clay hardened and unusable for Morris. To be frank, Arkansas has nothing. No players. Gus Malzahn goes there and he struggles to win five games for a couple years. Maybe he gets a win over Ole Miss or Mississippi State. Maybe there’s bowl eligibility in year three. Then where are you? Just then do you even get your head above water.

What happens if he fails? What happens if the roster is too terrible? Arkansas just lost to Western Kentucky 45-19. This isn’t a program on the brink of success, it’s one on the brink of relegation. If you go to take over that job and fail, then you’re done. It’s back to coordinator or head coach at an even lower level gig. If the pressure’s too much at Auburn, and the mumbling is audible, then it could make sense, but Gus seems too invested to take an offer like that right now.

Plus, he’s got three games left this season, and two HUGE chances to win back most of that fanbase like he did two years ago.

Georgia shut out Missouri last night, and looked really bored/sloppy in doing it. For all of the recruiting success (possibly an even more talented team than Alabama on paper??), the Bulldogs have looked really rough since losing to South Carolina. An offense with all of that talent shouldn’t be struggling as much as they are, but Kirby seems hell-bent on recreating 2009 Alabama, which would be about the third or fourth best team in the SEC this year.

There’s a difference between what happened two years ago and what’s happening now, though. As we enter Georgia week, Auburn is rested and coming off of a close win over Ole Miss. The Tigers aren’t great on offense, and Bo Nix needs to show us something before much of the fanbase is sold on him. He’s been way better at home than on the road, so it’s really nice that we get the last few weeks at Jordan-Hare.

Two years ago, the offense was on fire. In SEC play before the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn posted 51, 49, 44, 23, 52, and 42 points. Then they dropped a 40-burger on the Dawgs. It’s not quite the same this year, but we won’t need 40 to beat Georgia.

Elsewhere around the SEC/Top 25:

If Gus does leave, we’re not hiring Will Muschamp.

But I’m sure there are some people that would like to hire P.J. Fleck. Even in his Rod Corrdry weirdness, he’s got Minnesota undefeated and in position to win the division in the Big Ten. Would he be able to recruit the south? Maybe. We’ve seen that weirdness is winning lately. Being goofy is good. Ed Orgeron and Dabo aren’t taking things too seriously, and they’re not losing.

Elsewhere Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma almost lost to Iowa State, escaping 42-41 last night. If there’s a 2-loss Big 12 champ, then Bama gets in, so we’re all massive Jalen Hurts fans right now. Also, Matt Rhule fans.

Right now there’s discord and enmity between Auburn fans for what’s been going on with the offense, but it’s all fixable this coming Saturday. Beat Georgia, and Gus’ seat temporarily cools once again. Beat Bama at the end of the month, keeping them out of the Playoff for sure, and Gus’ job temperature gets ice cold.

Big week, *$&# Georgia, y’all.